Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual.jpg (copy)

The 490-page "City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual," seen here against the old cobblestones on Chalmers Street, was at the center of a lawsuit over free speech. Wade Spees/Staff

Attorneys for the plaintiffs who prevailed in the tour-guide lawsuit against that the city of Charleston plan to bill the city for their time.

The exact amount has not been determined, but it would be covered by insurance, according to Carol Ervin, an attorney who defended the city.

It's customary for the winners in a case involving a constitutional question to bill the losers for their legal fees, according to Robert McNamara, senior attorney for the Institute of Justice, a free-speech advocacy group that brought the case. He didn't yet have an estimate of how many hours the group's lawyers put in on the case.

The Arlington, Va.-based institute requested that it be allowed to wait until the city decides whether to appeal the decision before submitting a bill. The judge agreed to the extension. 

The city did not disagree. Ervin said in an email that it would require "a considerable amount of time to go through three years’ worth of bills to calculate the hours put into the case."

"This work would be premature if the city subsequently appealed and the Judge’s decision is reversed," she wrote. 

The Institute for Justice sued the city in January 2016 on behalf of three people who failed the test for a tour-guide license and alleged the city was putting an unnecessary burden on their free-speech rights. The 200-question test is based on the 490-page "City of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual" prepared by the Historic Charleston Foundation.

The city fought the lawsuit because officials said licensing was necessary to protect a leading industry by ensuring that guides had a basic understanding of the Charleston's history and architecture, its primary attractions. 

After U.S. District Court Judge David Norton issued his ruling on Aug. 6, the city announced it would no longer require a license to be a tour guide. It also said it considering whether to challenge the findings. No decision had been made as of Tuesday.

It's not clear how much support for an appeal there is. Several tour operators have announced they will continue to require their guides to take a test as a form of certification, even though the city no longer requires a test for a license. The form of that test is up for discussion.

The city's Tourism Commission, which advises Charleston City Council on the tourism ordinance. will take input and discuss possible changes to the test next week, according to chairman Bob Seidler. He said he's already heard suggestions that the study material include more African American contributions.

The commission meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 22 in City Council chambers at Meeting and Broad streets in downtown Charleston.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.